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Manager says farmers markets should be the rule, not the exception

Brian Beevers is a community leader in bringing local, organic foods to neighborhoods around San Diego. For the past five years, Beevers has managed farmers markets, contributing his passion and knowledge of food and health to the growing scene of conscious foodies. He currently manages six farmers markets, which feature fresh produce, prepared foods and wares from local artisans.

Q: From where does your passion for farmers markets stem?

A: My passion began with a desire for healthy, local food for my own diet, and now it is creating access to healthy food for everyone. In addition to that, my passion has expanded to supporting local farmers and small local artisans, which, in turn, supports the local economy.

Q: What was your first job? What did you do before opening your six markets?

A: My first job was hand harvesting walnuts on my dad's walnut orchard. I wasn't making a killing at about 25 cents a bucket, but I started at the age of 4. My dad’s walnut and almond orchards have now since been turned into a horse pasture, but the 15 years of helping on the farm was instrumental in my life perspective on food and farming.

Q: Has all the buzz about supporting local and sustainable led to the opening of more markets?

A: No doubt. We just hope that the growth in farmers markets also encourages customer growth. There is still only a small percentage of the population that regularly shops at farmers markets.

Q: What is the biggest challenge in the world of farmers markets?

A: The biggest challenge is trying to change the processed food mentality of the people. We are so conditioned by advertising that makes extremely processed and unhealthy food-like products appear as healthy options. If people really knew what they were eating, I have to believe they would change their eating habits and realize that farmers markets are the best place to get real food.

Q: What's the biggest reward?

A: The biggest reward is seeing the whole picture actually happen: A small farmer grows his crops, sells them at the market to a local family, the family makes it a priority to shop with that farmer every week. They know the person who grows their food, and they are healthier because of it.

Q: How risky was it to go from the tech industry to the world of farmers markets?

A: I invested everything I had. I remember prior to opening my first market on my own, I had literally $45 in the bank and two weeks to go before the grand opening of the market. Fortunately, I already had food in my house and gas in my tank.

Q: In a perfect world, what would San Diego's slow food scene look like?

A: In a perfect world, farmers markets would be the rule, rather than the exception, for San Diego residents when shopping for food. It would be the first place people go, supplemented with items that can only be found at grocery stores. Our farmers would not be worried about imported produce coming into our grocery stores. Locally grown would be a standard, and all other produce would be the exception. Supporting local businesses and farmers would be the mindset of shoppers, and every farmers market would be bustling with people.

Q: Are supermarkets and small markets, like yours, direct competitors, or do you think they should co-exist?

A: I would consider supermarkets that sell imported produce our competition. Bringing in imported produce from another country where labor is cheap creates a false sense of the low cost of things here in San Diego. While I disagree with the importing of produce that can be grown within 100 miles of the store, it is a free market and, therefore, I believe we do need to co-exist.

Q: Why do counties like San Diego need farmers markets?

A: To allow farmers to conduct direct sales to the community. There are no middle men, and you know where your food comes from. You can look the person who grows the food you're about to eat in the eye.

Q: How many farmers markets should a community the size of San Diego have?

A: I believe that if the majority of residents in San Diego County shopped at farmers markets just twice a month, we could support a market in every community in San Diego. If the majority supported the farmers market every week, our local economy would change for the better drastically.

Q: Who inspires you?

A: In the farmers market world, I am most inspired by the customer who understands the importance of shopping at farmers markets weekly, and not only because they get great fresh produce and food; they make it a point to shop there because of the principle behind it.

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